Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday slowdown

I am having such fun teaching my granddaughter some of the kids songs that I remember singing years ago.

This is one such song -- it may be for kids, but the message is just as important for us adults!

(And yes, this will be stuck in your head all day.)

(You're welcome.)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Guided thoughts, no. 17

Ah, the good life!
Working outdoors, breathing that good fresh air.
Being in the midst of the Creator's handiwork, and enjoying it.


On a farm, the equipment that is used is almost as important as the people using it. It is carefully maintained, with routine checks of major systems, and in-depth maintenance at scheduled intervals. For example, there is a checklist of things to do after two hundred hours of use, and at four hundred, and so on. The complete machine needs to be inspected; fittings need to be greased; tires need to be filled; hydraulic fluid needs to be "topped off" periodically, and filters changed. Usually the entire tractor needs a good bath, too!

If this maintenance work is not completed, the tractor may just break down and be immobilized. Then it will have to have a chain or tow rope attached, and be pulled back to the barn. The locked-down tires sometimes won't turn, and dig up patches of turf as it moves across the field or pasture.

Here's where I'm headed with this: just like a complex piece of machinery like a tractor, a Christian needs maintenance!

First, we need a good, thorough inspection. God sees our hearts, and knows us; we need to allow Him to show us our sins and shortcomings.
Search me, O God, and know my heart!    Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me,    and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24)
Test me, Lord, and try me,    examine my heart and my mind; (Psalm 26:2)
Then we need to be washed....
 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; (Ezekiel 36:25-26a)
 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, (Titus 3:5-6)
We need to "lube" our days with prayer! Our daily prayers prepare us for His working in our lives; it's a chance to confide in Him our cares, and to know He will help us.
You will pray to him, and he will hear you,    and you will fulfill your vows. (Job 22:27)
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. (I John 5:14-15)
Our spiritual "tires" should be filled with gratitude -- we will find it much easier to make it through each day!
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7)
When we get stuck and are immobilized by sin or some obstacle we hadn't anticipated, the Spirit will find us....
Where can I go from your Spirit?    Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there;    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn,    if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me,    your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139:7-10)
 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me." (Acts 20:22-23)
Even if our "wheels are locked" and we aren't cooperating, the Holy Spirit will bring us back to where we need to be. We may look back and see the torn up turf where we dug in our heels, but if we will submit to His leadership, we will be so much happier in the long run!

Let's make sure that we do our daily "maintenance!"

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Guided thoughts, no. 16

I learned a lot from my dad-in-law.
As a member of the "Greatest Generation," he had life experiences that were both interesting and inspiring to me. As a boy, he hitch-hiked his way to a school a hundred miles from his home, and worked for his tuition in the school's dairy. He was truly a self-made man, and showed determination and fortitude in the ensuing years. He reluctantly left his young wife and infant son behind to be part of the Army Air Corps, and stayed in England for over two years, before returning to the US to resume his life as a civilian.
His interests were many and varied -- he never seemed to stop wanting to learn. And he tried to pass some of that along to his kids and his grandkids. Some of it "stuck" and some didn't. (Grin)

I recall his working to prune the scuppernong and muscadine grapes that my hubby planted near our house. He would take pruner in hand, and with a practiced hand and an expert eye, would prune them in the dead of winter.

I would stand there with him and try to learn how, so that I could do the pruning in the future. I often would ask him why he pruned certain branches of the vine, and not others.

He told me that it was important to have air circulation around the vines, for that would discourage some of the problems that grapes can fall victim to -- molds, fungus, even "bad" bugs. It was important, too, to train the vines to grow along the wires, so that they could be more easily harvested in the fall. (Scuppernongs and muscadines are late to fruit....they begin to ripen in the late summer, and are pungent and delicious just before the frost.)

My dad-in-law also told me that some vines were pruned back to increase their strength. Some, he recalled that they did not produce well, so he cut them back. Some did not produce at all, and were snipped off entirely, and discarded or burned. He was careful to prune them at just the right point -- there needed to be a bud just before the cut, so that the correct growth would occur. In that way, the best growth for strength and for increased production of grapes would happen.

I'm sure that you see where I'm going with this.
I remembered, standing there in the cold, the verses that Jesus spoke:
 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:1-8)
Oh, that our lives will truly bear fruit to the glory of our Father and His Son Jesus!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What are we listening to today?

Did you know that singing and laughing can release positive, beneficial chemicals within our bodies? It's true!
All types of singing have positive psychological effects. The act of singing releases endorphins, the brain's "feel good" chemicals.  (from Science, HowStuffWorks)
No wonder the Bible tells us multiple times to sing to the Lord; we are encouraged to "make melody;" and we have many examples of folks in the Bible who sang praise to God (or who sang asking for Him to comfort or intercede, too!).

Here's something a little different: even instrumental music can be a wonderful way for us to meditate and be open to the workings of the Spirit. When we are not focused on the words of a song, we are able to think about the attributes of our Father, about the ways He has worked recently in our lives, and about what we hope to accomplish in this day.

I challenge all of us to try this -- perhaps you have some solo Christian artists, or some groups, that are your favorites.
Branch out a little!
Try some instrumental music, and focus your thoughts -- oops, don't let them wander to the grocery shopping list, or to whatever chores are facing you today.....
Zero in on the relationship with our Father. Thank Him for all of His blessings. Ask Him to forgive any sins or shortcomings.
Then let's quietly wait and let the Spirit minister to our hearts.

I promise we will rise to continue our day with lighter hearts!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Guided thoughts, no. 15

Have you recently planned on a trip away from home? Was it for business, or for pleasure? A lengthy journey, or a quick trip?

Probably all of us have done this. How do we usually prepare? Are you a list-maker? Do you just keep mental notes and hope you get it all done?

There's so much to be done!
First, we must choose where we are going -- many miles away, or just a few? What do we hope to accomplish? Is this trip for fun? For excitement? For relaxation? For learning?

Once we know the why and the where, we can choose the "how." Will we need tickets for train or airplane travel? Will we use our vehicle or rent one? Many of us will juggle these to decide what is the most cost-effective way to travel to our chosen destination, and then to travel home again.

Now we must consider that home. Will everything we leave behind be safe? We need to make arrangements for pets -- will they board somewhere, or will someone come and care for them? Will the lights be programmed to give the illusion that someone is home?

Lastly, what will we take with us on our trip? We must consider where we are going, and what activities we will participate in -- warm clothing or cool, fancy or casual. And let's not forget to pack all of our daily toiletries and medicines!

Oy vey.
Can we just stay home? (Grin)

Dear Christian friends, do we put as much thought and energy into our life journey as we do into our earthly trips?

First of all, just as on our earthly trips, we need to know where we are going:
For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Hebrews 13:14
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)
Next, what is the purpose of our trip? Why are we making this journey?
I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; Philippians 1:23
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:1-4)
Yes, to be with our Lord, Who died in our place because of His mercy and great love for us! Now, how do we prepare?
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (I Timothy 6:12)
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2) 
Lastly, what shall we pack? What will we take with us? (Trick question, right?)
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (I Timothy 6:17-19)
Now we can make our plans! For the most important journey ever -- the journey that takes place step by step, each day, as the Spirit sanctifies us and prepares us to live with Him!

Friday, July 14, 2017

My friend, Peter (conclusion)

As our study concludes this week, we have seen that there's been a big change in Simon Peter; he has moved from an outspoken, impulsive, often proud individual to being the rock of the New Testament church. He became a powerful preacher, and a person who was quick to give God the glory.

Today we'll see how he wove the themes of humility and submission into his letters . . . Peter's humility and his loving-kindness are easy to see.

In the fifth chapter of I Peter, he wrote:

In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,“God opposes the proud    but shows favor to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (I Peter 5:5-6)
He starts his second epistle with:

Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours... (II Peter 1:1)
In the KJV, the translation reads "bondservant" and apostle. Peter has moved from the independent, strong-willed, bragging Simon to an humble servant-leader with a true shepherd's heart for his people.
How did this happen? Yes, the process began with his conversion, and the indwelling of the Spirit at Pentecost. But the growing, maturing, sanctifying was ongoing in his life. Just as in Peter's life, this can happen in our lives as well. And regular reliance on prayer is a vital ingredient!
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. (Acts 3:1)
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken.And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (Acts 4:31)
We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word. (Acts 6:3b-4)
About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. (Acts 10:9)

I think the Spirit guided Luke to include these notes, to underline Peter's devotion to prayer, and to draw our attention to his example for our lives. Peter is a dedicated and humble man at this point, and these verses (and his own letters) are wonderful instructions on how to live a Spirit-filled life.
Peter's first letter has a theme of hope, and tells us where our power comes from:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead... (I Peter 1:3)
Still inspiring us, he writes that hope can help us through our trials:
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (I Peter 1:6-9)
Next, he instructs his readers on how to respond to authority:
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority:whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. (I Peter 2:13-17)
I love how he gives the reasoning behind his silence those who would talk badly about us and our faith. Awesome.
His next instruction is for servants in his day, but it works for us as well..... to take suffering patiently, whether deserved or not. Oy. That's a hard one, right? We will study that in depth in the near future. (He gives us the example of Christ's submission in suffering.)

Family instructions come next, and still carry that theme of submission to each other in God's love:
Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives... (I Peter 3:1-2)
Peter uses a word that is translated "likewise" in the KJV, when he talks to the husbands....continuing that thought of submission. A loving, self-sacrificing husband will say "no" to his fleshly inclinations, and put the needs of his wife first.
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (I Peter 3:7)
I truly think that Peter expresses best the loving relationship that should exist when two godly people work together on that marriage relationship!

Who would have thought that tumultuous, brash Simon would have become rock-solid Peter? Christ knew and told him....but Simon still went through a lot to get there. And that is the way our lives are, too. We are in a continual process of growing and becoming more Godly, closer to our Father in our Spirit-guided lives.
Peter became one of the world's greatest teachers of love, hope, humility, and submission to (and respect for) authority!
If people with pasts like Peter and Paul can become such champions for God, then surely there is hope for you and me!
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For,“Whoever would love life    and see good daysmust keep their tongue from evil    and their lips from deceitful speech.
 They must turn from evil and do good;    they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous    and his ears are attentive to their prayer,but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (I Peter 3:8-12)
Lord, help me to dwell in your Word and follow!